Commissioners’ decision in Southwest Gas rate case a win for Arizona consumers, competitiveness

I’ve said it before: policy matters.  

It’s no accident that Arizona sits at the top of nearly every major ranking of economic competitiveness, performance, and outlook.  

Over the last decade, Arizona leaders have worked to advance pro-growth, free-market reforms that have resulted in one of the most attractive tax and regulatory environments in the country. And job creators have taken note.   

Now is the time to look to Arizona’s future – and our future depends on good policy. Looking ahead, we must remain focused on pursuing the kinds of policies that will continue to drive Arizona’s growth and give us a competitive edge in the global economy. If we’re going to be successful, ensuring a strong and modern energy infrastructure must be among our highest priorities.

Too often, out-of-state special interests seek to impose their own agendas on Arizona, to the detriment of our job creators, consumers, and economy. That was certainly the objective in the recent Southwest Gas rate case before the Arizona Corporation Commission, where a group of natural gas opponents known as the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project, or SWEEP, attempted to block the company’s responsible rate proposal in favor of its own harmful energy policies.  

If successful, these efforts would have limited natural-gas development in our state and led to fewer energy choices and higher costs for Arizona consumers. The Commission did the right thing by accepting the findings of the administrative law judge in the case and siding with the Arizona businesses and households who depend on the availability of a robust, reliable, and affordable natural gas system.  

The importance of a diverse energy mix to our state economy cannot be overstated. More than a third of the nation’s power plants run on natural gas. Nearly every industry – whether manufacturing, tourism, healthcare, restaurants, or agribusiness – relies on natural gas. These industries all create thousands of jobs and enhance the quality of life across the state, contributing to the strong and growing economy we enjoy today.  

Of course, Arizona will only remain competitive and attractive to these industries as long as we have the capacity to deliver the variety of affordable energy sources employers demand – including, and especially, natural gas.  

There’s a reason we have been successful at driving new business to our state. Job creators are flocking to Arizona because we’re not California or Texas, where summer brownouts and winter grid failures that cause uncertainty for employers and rate spikes for customers. Why would we want to risk adopting the same policies that are causing other states to lose business?  

Fortunately, the commissioners’ decision in this case ensures that won’t happen. They should be applauded. But that doesn’t mean the out-of-state interest groups won’t keep trying – they inevitably will. But the Arizona Chamber and the broader business community are committed to ensuring a modern and safe natural gas distribution system that will keep customers’ rates affordable and encourage further economic growth. And we will continue to fight for the policies that make it possible. 

Danny Seiden is president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry.

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